“All my enemies are dead, so I have no one to gloat over.”
August 9, 2019 10:24 AM   Subscribe

The Mystery of the Channeled Scablands. In the middle of eastern Washington stands what was once the largest waterfall in the world. It is three miles wide and 400 feet high—ten times the size of Niagara Falls. Today there is not so much as a trickle running over the cataract’s lip. What could have caused this landscape? It was a question hotly debated for several decades, and the answer was as surprising and dramatic as Dry Falls itself. So was the source of that answer: a high school science teacher named Harley Bretz.
posted by roger ackroyd (69 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
 
This post brought to you by an autocorrect error. I accidentally texted a friend to "bring scablands" instead of snacks, and then went down a rabbit hole to figure out what the heck the Scablands were.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:37 AM on August 9 [148 favorites]


anyone who has ever had the... fortune... to live in those parts of eastern washington can tell you that it's not a surprise that the official name for the landscape involves the word "scablands."
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:43 AM on August 9 [12 favorites]


Is it awful? Because I immediately started planning a visit.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:44 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


I immediately started planning a visit

Same here. It took about three paragraphs for me to go from "never heard of it" to "desperately want to go hike around there."
posted by saladin at 10:49 AM on August 9 [16 favorites]


Interesting. I grew up in Minnesota, where we learned about Glacial Lake Agassiz. While there are some phantom beaches, and Glacial River Warren made an oversized valley that the Minnesota River meanders through, its leavings are not as dramatic as those from Glacial Lake Missoula.
posted by larrybob at 10:49 AM on August 9 [10 favorites]


> Is it awful? Because I immediately started planning a visit.

it's strange and different and kind of beautiful, but culturally... bad. people from there who've gotten out tend to say stuff like "its chief industrial product is misery, and its chief export is its own children, who flee the second they turn 18." it's the kind of place where people put up giant "U.S. out of U.N. NOW!" signs along the side of the road.

anyway. i think i'm unnecessarily milkshake ducking a geologically fascinating corner of the country.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:50 AM on August 9 [15 favorites]


Here's a clip from a Patrick Stewart-narrated doc that has some more great shots of the scablands and features geologist Richard Waitt, who's mentioned in the article.

The draining of Glacial Lake Agassiz created a similarly puzzling (but much less dramatic) feature in Minnesota. Throughout its course across the southern part of the state, the Minnesota River flows through a valley that's much wider and deeper than one would expect for such a modest river. This is, of course, because the valley was actually carved out by the massive flow of a previous occupant: Glacial River Warren, which drained Lake Agassiz. This huge pulse of fresh water into the North Atlantic may have disrupted the thermohaline circulation enough to cause a temporary global cooling called the 8.2 kiloyear event.

[on preview: pipped by larrybob!]
posted by theory at 10:52 AM on August 9 [20 favorites]


Holy shit: "a torrent of water with ten times the combined flow of all the world’s rivers barreled into eastern Washington."

This article is so frustrating to read, because the brand of stubborn orthodoxy that kept people from believing this theory for decades still plagues science today. I believe completely in science and the scientific method, but I don't necessarily trust scientists individually or the current scientific consensus because of attitudes like this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:01 AM on August 9 [11 favorites]


I mentioned this article in my post about the Zanclean Megaflood. If you’re into this post you’d probably also be into that one.
posted by fedward at 11:03 AM on August 9 [9 favorites]


From anywhere in Missoula, you can see the shorelines of Glacial Lake Missoula: Link
posted by ITravelMontana at 11:07 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


I love reading about novel geological features, and if anyone can recommend places to learn about more of them, I'd really appreciate it. Recently I read Never Cry Wolf and learned about eskers, which are essentially upside-down riverbeds made of the rocks and sediments which settled in the bottom of glacial rivers and were then left behind after the glaciers melted.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:10 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Oh man, I somehow went down this rabbit hole a year ago. My mind was blown. The scale of it! Just imagine: the floods created sixty-feet high RIPPLES. Also, be glad we were all born in an interglacial.
posted by Transl3y at 11:13 AM on August 9 [11 favorites]


New scientific truths often win the day not so much because opponents change their minds, but because they die off. By the time the Geological Society of America finally recognized Bretz’s work with the Penrose Medal, the field’s highest honor, it was 1979 and Bretz was 96 years old. He joked to his son, “All my enemies are dead, so I have no one to gloat over.”

My dad went to college in the late 1960s, and he told me he had one professor who still refused to believe in place tectonics.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:16 AM on August 9 [22 favorites]


...subsequent research indicates that 80 or more floods ravaged the scablands near the end of the last ice age. Repeatedly over a two- to three-thousand-year span ending roughly 13,000 years ago

This means that while humans were living in North America, there was a region that had a megaflood about every 37 years.
posted by bdc34 at 11:34 AM on August 9 [17 favorites]


the scientific method

Which is neither scientific, not a method! Discuss!
posted by thelonius at 11:37 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


I accidentally texted a friend to "bring scablands" instead of snacks,

Are we talking party mix scablands or cool ranch scablands
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:43 AM on August 9 [31 favorites]


Interesting as the article is - and I too am considering a trip there - I think it's a little disingenuous for the author to refer to the person who answered the question of how this landscape happened as a "high school science teacher". That's what he was doing when he asked the question; by the time he answered it, he had a Ph.D. in geology, which he taught at the University of Chicago. And I question the statement that he had no formal training in geology before his graduate program; according to his Wikipedia biography, one of the subjects he taught was physiography. That's not geology, but surely it's geology-adjacent. There's a kind of anti-science thing implied here that I don't like. Science, scientists, and the scientific method have problems, yes, but these do not make all science and scientific training meaningless.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 11:45 AM on August 9 [21 favorites]


Is it awful?

I find it beautiful. I spent many of my tower climbing years working that side of the state, and it's one of my favorite areas to go on motorcycle rides. I've got gigabytes of pictures. My uncle and I spent four days earlier this summer riding around the area, including a night at the Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park Campground. The geology of the area is fascinating, and can be incredibly dramatic.

NOVA's Mystery of the Megaflood is worth checking out for those interested.
posted by calamari kid at 11:46 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


Science, scientists, and the scientific method have problems, yes, but these do not make all science and scientific training meaningless.

Yes, I agree; I wish that every crackpot wouldn't take stories like this as justification for why their ascientific theories must be right.

This guy had a question, spent years getting the training (PhD) and doing detailed field-work research, and *then* came up with a theory that didn't match the consensus at the time. The reason he was able to come up with a *good* theory, one that matched the physical evidence, is because he got scientific training and then spent years doing actual direct investigation informed by that training. Yes, it took way too long for the rest of the science world to agree with his theory, but he too was part of that scientific world.

He did *not* simply start writing that everyone else was wrong and he was right, without even understanding what everyone else believed in the first place. That would have been ascientific, and this guy was a scientist (by both mindset and training).
posted by nat at 11:57 AM on August 9 [45 favorites]


Bad science writing is so common that it's really refreshing to read something so engaging, lucid and informative.
posted by howfar at 12:21 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


There's a kind of anti-science thing implied here that I don't like.

I think what's happening is that the author is creating a story to engage the reader. They do, after all, immediately confirm that he studied for a PhD in geology. Bretz goes into the landscape a teacher and emerges a student: he is transformed by empirical experience. The point of the piece isn't to disparage the scientific method, but to demonstrate the actual mechanisms at work behind the idealised Popperian method. Hence the linked reference to Kuhn. It seems like maybe a little kneejerk scientism might be involved in such a vehement reaction to a simple narrative device.

If you're going to see something sinister every time a writer employs the hero's journey, you're going to have some interesting, but probably quite stressful, reading
posted by howfar at 12:30 PM on August 9 [8 favorites]


the answer was as surprising and dramatic as Dry Falls itself. So was the source of that answer: a high school science teacher named Harley Bretz.

I parsed that as Mr. Bretz being responsible for an ecological classroom science experiment that went catastrophically awry and warped the landscape forever.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:30 PM on August 9 [24 favorites]


Eponysterical.
posted by howfar at 12:31 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Peviously, the third link discusses this super interesting geology.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:47 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


I think it's a little disingenuous for the author to refer to the person who answered the question of how this landscape happened as a "high school science teacher".

I agree that the "outsider scientist" narrative rankles a bit. But while the article's text could have made it clearer that he became a professor at U. Chicago, the worst offense by far is in the tagline at the top:
"Geologists couldn't account for the strange landforms of eastern Washington State. Then a high school teacher dared to question the scientific dogma of his day."
I am entirely willing to believe that this was inserted by an overzealous editor who wanted to boost the article's impressions.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:51 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


Straplines are editorial decisions for precisely the reason you indicate. It would be unusual for a writer to have any input at all.
posted by howfar at 1:00 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Judging by his Wikipedia entry, it seems like Bretz was working as a high school teacher while he continued to pursue higher education. He got his batchelor's at 23 and his PhD at 31, which is pretty normal age to get a PhD. It's unclear where the "Bretz went to the University of Washington and was unsatisfied with the current science so he decided to become a geologist" narrative comes from, but this HistoryLink article seems to be a much more sober telling of his history. Interestingly, according to the article his name was always officially "Harlan" on paper, but his children say his given name was "Harley."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:13 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Oh good, Bee'sWing already pointed out the previously about Nick Zentner. He's one of my favorite youtubers, because of his infectious enthusiasm for a region I grew up thinking of as boring farms and whatever (I was wrong), and also because I like living in a world where I can imagine that the good people of Ellensburg are just mad for geology so they come out to his public lectures in droves.
posted by surlyben at 1:44 PM on August 9 [8 favorites]


Recently I read Never Cry Wolf and learned about eskers . . .

Eskers are a fantastic place to locate your sand and gravel mine, for making concrete and asphalt, etc. All of the material is sorted and ready to load onto trucks.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:03 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


So...no one is going to say Paul Bunyan?
posted by saysthis at 2:53 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


No, saysthis, and don't you start!
posted by evilDoug at 2:57 PM on August 9


I thought it was "Harlan" too, but he Wikipedia article says "J Harlen" and so does the NG piece.
posted by jamjam at 3:10 PM on August 9


Whereas Colonel Sanders is "Harland."
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:17 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


As a columnist in a couple of places - headlines and strap/tag lines I can offer suggestions, but editorial only occasionally take them as is. (Frustrating to say the least!)
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:25 PM on August 9


My dad went to college in the late 1960s, and he told me he had one professor who still refused to believe in place tectonics.

Cool fun/sad fact: Albert Einstein wrote the forward to a book that, uh, reaches some fabulously far-out conclusions on crustal movement. The author of the book apparently later went on to hold a number of other colorful views, e.g., that humans and dinosaurs lived on Earth simultaneously.

I think I learned about the Einstein forward in Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which discusses how the idea of plate tectonics was surprisingly slow to catch on.

Also...

MetaFilter: Unnecessarily milkshake ducking a geologically fascinating corner of the country.
posted by compartment at 3:31 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


A few weeks ago I was on a puddle jumper flight from Boise to Portland right around sunset. The first half of the flight passed over the scablands, and the near horizontal light and lowish altitude really accentuated the giant ripples in the landscape, making it very obvious that a *huge* flood had passed through.

The scabland landforms are so large that they can be difficult to interpret from ground level. Bretz had a great eye for landforms.
posted by monotreme at 3:32 PM on August 9 [11 favorites]


With the flood story in mind, it all seems so obvious—so obvious, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to see the terrain and not see the floodwaters that shaped it. Why, then, were the experts in Bretz’s day so blind to what now seems like a self-evident geological record?

It can happen to anyone. Darwin suffered from the same blindness when he visited Wales in 1831 and, as he later recalled in his Autobiography, failed to notice the obvious signs of glaciation because he wasn't expecting to find them:

On this tour I had a striking instance how easy it is to overlook phenomena, however conspicuous, before they have been observed by anyone. We spent many hours in Cwm Idwal, examining all the rocks with extreme care, as Sedgwick was anxious to find fossils in them; but neither of us saw a trace of the wonderful glacial phenomena all around us; we did not notice the plainly scored rocks, the perched boulders, the lateral and terminal moraines. Yet these phenomena are so conspicuous that, as I declared in a paper published many years afterwards in the Philosophical Magazine, a house burnt down by fire did not tell its story more plainly than did this valley.
posted by verstegan at 3:51 PM on August 9 [8 favorites]


Zanclean Megaflood sounds like a lighting component at a Disaster Area concert.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:56 PM on August 9 [21 favorites]


If you plan to see the scablands, I recommend also heading a bit further southeast to also take in the Palouse as they're close by and provide their own odd geography writ large.  I always describe them as the embodying the ultimate ur-concept of the rolling hill, upon which all other rolling hills are but pale echoes.  They really are quite pretty, especially if you manage to catch them early in the growing season when the hills are still green.

The scablands though have long been on my list to see ever since learning about them. Washington really just does have a bit of everything, and it makes me so damn happy to have all of this in reach.  Oceans, mountains, rainforests canyons, volcanoes, badlands…all in a single state not even quite the size of Great Britain.  

Last year I did get a chance to finally see the Palouse in person as I cycled through, but unfortunately my route didn't take me through the scablands.  I'm going to have to make sure I incorporate a route through the area if I ever finally get around to riding my bike from Seattle to Spokane like I keep talking about doing.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 4:04 PM on August 9 [6 favorites]


My dad went to college in the late 1960s, and he told me he had one professor who still refused to believe in place tectonics.

I worked with a guy ~15 years ago who had very elaborate theories that explained why plate tectonics was not true.
posted by GuyZero at 4:41 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


When John McPhee wrote his four-volume series of books about geology, the second book In Suspect Terrain (1983) was about Anita Harris, an internationally renowned geologist who didn't believe in plate tectonics. So full acceptance of this theory must be fairly recent, and probably came about in the way described above, by its opponents retiring from the field.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 6:01 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]




My husband and I took a vacation last year that passes through the Channeled Scablands! John Soennichsen's book
Washington's Channeled Scablands Guide: Explore and Recreate Along the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
is a lovely conversational guide/ travel narrative.
posted by vespabelle at 6:30 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


>My dad went to college in the late 1960s, and he told me he had one professor who still refused to believe in place tectonics.

My understanding is that general agreement about the theory of plate tectonics didn't really coalesce until about 1970 or so.

Alfred Wegener first developed the idea of continental drift in the 1910s and 20s (though he was wrong about the mechanism and a lot the specifics), but his ideas didn't gain much traction until supporting evidence started arriving in the 1950s. The mid-ocean ridges were discovered in 1953. Seafloor spreading was theorized in 1960 but the first tests to confirm the concept didn't get published til 1968.
posted by theory at 6:36 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Enjoyed the article, but not happy about the Thomas Kuhn comment.

Thomas Kuhn deserves massive respect for the concept of "paradigm shift" and is totally one of my science/philosophy/philosophy of science heroes. But I have always understood that it was his footnote acknowledging Max Planck as the source of the summary "Science advances one funeral at a time", which was in Planck's autobiographical work, paraphrased as, "new scientific thought does not triumph by converting opponents, but rather after their death, a new generation is ready to assess such a thought"

Which is why the idea of immortality seems to me to be a curse on all future generations.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 6:44 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


By the way, you can access the maps that inspired Bretz at the USGS Historical Topographic Map viewer. Here is one of Bretz's original papers. If you are looking for a good guide to the geology of the scablands, this field trip guide (paywalled) looks promising.
posted by rockindata at 7:12 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


Oh my gosh, this is wonderful country, people. It is dry and desolate, but beautiful and lonely and not to far from several outposts of civilization. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
posted by lhauser at 7:12 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


My dad went to college in the late 1960s, and he told me he had one professor who still refused to believe in place tectonics.

It's worth pointing out that in 1960 in A his book "A Thinking Man's Guide to Science", Isaac Asimov listed Continental Drift alongside the Lumiferius Aether as examples of attractive theories that just didn't pan out. The next edition he had to admit he was wrong.

Bear in mind mid-oceanic rifts weren't discovered until 1967, and the Vine-Matthews-Morley hypothesis of sea-floor spreading wasn't published until 1963. General acceptance of continental drift was fairly rapid after that-under a decade- but holdouts in the late 1960s is very believable.

The Scablands analysis and Continental Drift
posted by happyroach at 9:12 PM on August 9


Is it awful?

Not at all. Yes, the region is (broadly, but not by any means universally) politically conservative, but it is beautiful, there is more cultural diversity than other parts of the Pacific Northwest, and people are nice (as they are pretty much everywhere).

Visit if you can, the landscape is incredible and the scale is hard to describe without being there in person.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:29 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


Driving to Spokane at the end of the month, and now I have a new day trip planned. Thanks, roger ackroyd!
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:33 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


don’t thank me, thank autocorrect
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:47 PM on August 9 [6 favorites]


The Scablands analysis and Continental Drift

...is incidentally the name of youknowthedrill
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:48 PM on August 9


came here to post the Zentner vids, LOL. Lemme just say it was from his videos that I learned several interesting geologic factoids about the PNW:

the whole region is rotating slowly clockwise as the plates grind away
the flood basalts go down a mile or more in depth!
much of W Washington is accreted from collisions with island chains etc.
the big volcanoes build up, blow up, and erode away. Goat Rocks is a "ghost volcano", gone now but it used to be like Rainier back in its prime.

What's also cool (for me at least) is that 15 years ago when I was studying Vietnamese maps of the Pleiku region I wondered why the terrain changed so oddly. After watching Zentner's stuff I put 2+2 together and sure enough, what was South Vietnam's Central Highlands was a lot of flood basalt too!
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 4:05 AM on August 10 [7 favorites]


it's strange and different and kind of beautiful, but culturally... bad. people from there who've gotten out tend to say stuff like "its chief industrial product is misery, and its chief export is its own children, who flee the second they turn 18." it's the kind of place where people put up giant "U.S. out of U.N. NOW!" signs along the side of the road.

Hi! I live in the Spokane area by choice, moved here in 2003 and the house is now paid off and we aren't going anywhere.

This is one of the worst horrid untrue stereotyping of an area of the country I've ever read.

Eastern WA and the Idaho Panhandle is full of small farming communities which I'm sure might breed the kind of attitude you describe, but the area is also full of vibrant population centers which are far more purple than the election maps might suggest. I know a lot of people both from this area and other parts of this side of WA who were born here and who have lived their entire lives in the area, not fleeing out of misery but finding this feels like home.

I'm truly shocked that anyone would use such a broad negative brush to summarize the population a geography bigger than many states in New England.
posted by hippybear at 6:09 AM on August 10 [6 favorites]


This thread and fedward’s previous post is some good fodder for things to go and see next time we’re in Spokane.

the area is also full of vibrant population centers which are far more purple than the election maps might suggest. I know a lot of people both from this area and other parts of this side of WA who were born here and who have lived their entire lives in the area, not fleeing out of misery but finding this feels like home.

Yeah, this accords with my experience of Spokane and surrounding area as an outsider ever since my sister in law moved there and married someone from there. We’ve made a number of extended visits, and will continue to do so. TBH, as Canadians we get stronger dark right-wing vibes in some places here in Ontario than we do in Spokane.

The Sherman Scenic Bypass is one of the nicer drives I’ve ever taken (we usually drive down from BC since we can get a direct flight to Kelowna rather than mess around with the airport purgatory of Toronto>Vancouver>SeaTac>Spokane).

Anyway, planning to to some geological sightseeing next time we go!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:02 AM on August 10


The Sherman Scenic Bypass is one of the nicer drives I’ve ever taken

Wow! WA 20 has more to offer? It has to be among the most scenic routes. I hope you've taken the time to follow it all the way back over the Cascades - it's slow but it's gorgeous.
posted by wotsac at 8:11 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I don't know of anyone has ever investigated this, but the Native American legend of Wishpoosh literally describes this event. The timing seems awfully right for the to have been eyewitnesses, but who knows.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:22 AM on August 10 [6 favorites]


Handy playlist of Zentner's Roadside Geology videos, for trip planning.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:32 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


I have often wondered whether Grays Harbor and Willipa Bay were additional mouths of the proto-Columbia formed during those floods.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:58 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


"Glacial Lake Agassiz.... its leavings are not as dramatic as those from Glacial Lake Missoula."

Whoa! Not so fast there. While Ag's melt path thru MN is not as dramatic, once melt receded above the border, the book is still open on how it relieved itself for the next thousands of years.

Northern MN has a continental divide triple-point near Hibbing. The Gulf of Mexico is the destination of only one option. As the ice blocking Ag's flow retreated north, other options opened up. For a time, it poured over some obstacles into the Great Lakes. See Lake Ojibway. And for a time, it relieved itself through the Clearwater Spillway and the Mackenzie into the Arctic.

Check out Bing's aerial map of the region SW of Hudson Bay and north of the US border in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. You'll see a very chewed-up region ... Ontario alone has 250,000 lakes ... all thanks to Agassiz (and its predecessors of course). Missoula was a pipsqueak lake by comparison.
posted by Twang at 10:36 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


My parents are from Yakima and the last time I drove east from Seattle it was to pick them and siblings up in the Lewiston/Clarkston area, at the border of Washington and Idaho. It was May, and I planned the eastern drive to come through the Palouse as the wheat was greening. It was spectacular. We drove back via a different route and hit some amazing canyons. Washington has some of the most spectacular and varied landscape of any state in the country and it is somewhat amazing how closely packed it all is. I don’t get out of the city enough, but am looking forward to my next ramble eastward.
posted by mwhybark at 11:51 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]


So thinking of Kuhn, it is an interesting question whether the success of plate tectonics represents, in Kuhnian terms, a "paradigm shift", or, rather, an advance in "normal science". I tend to the latter, at first look: no totally new conceptual scheme arose; rather, evidence piled up that supported the plate theory.
posted by thelonius at 12:11 AM on August 11


Nick Zentner was my geology 101 and field camp instructor! He's amazing, especially when he's running around the halls imitating a velociraptor.
posted by Gneisskate at 11:01 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


It was May, and I planned the eastern drive to come through the Palouse as the wheat was greening. It was spectacular.

Driving WA 26 from Colfax to Vantage during the springtime wheat green season is like driving through an impressionist painting. So much green and so much fuzziness and you're driving down this valley which has all these little variations in the landscape and it can be difficult to clearly see where the lines in the landscape are because GREEN and FUZZY.

I did this drive simply by accident once and have done it at least twice on purpose since then. It's so beautiful and dramatic!
posted by hippybear at 12:45 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


hb, yes, that was the route I took east. It was GREAT to get off the ruler-straight roads and mildly anxiety-inducing when I realized I hadn’t gassed up and that it was unlikely I’d hit a filling station. There’s one right at the eastern end of the no-exits portion, thankfully.

I wish I could remember the name of the canyon we crossed heading west. From Clarkston if you go to Dry Falls iirc you have to go though this thing and it was stunning. We did not go to Dry Falls but had to go by the cutoff to get there to reach the place we were trying to get to, a little tiny town in a tiny canyon where my mother’s pioneer relations first settled in Washington. We visited her great great grandmother’s grave in a well tended cemetery overlooking the withering little town. Two months later one of my uncles that made the trip with us passed away. The whole caravan was fantastic and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share it with them.
posted by mwhybark at 8:37 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


The little town was Kahlotus.
posted by mwhybark at 8:43 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


You've given me unexpected tears on this evening, reading your account of this.

There is a lot of dramatic, unexpected landscape in this whole area, thanks to the floods. Those falls featured in the main article are one of them and I'd never heard of them before (living here for 15+ years) and only saw them a few months ago and they were a "holy shit" moment, literally people around me laughed hearing me say that when I saw the falls....

I can't champion this area enough. I grew up in New Mexico and will stand up for it as one of the most ridiculously diverse areas in the entire US. I'd have to say, Washington state is a second, or a first if you want to count the entire economic corridor west of the Cascades, which is something that New Mexico can't ever imagine competing on.
posted by hippybear at 8:58 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


This article is so frustrating to read, because the brand of stubborn orthodoxy that kept people from believing this theory for decades still plagues science today.

To be fair, geologists have spent the last century or so dealing with crackpots who insist that every weird thing in geology is proof of the biblical Noah's flood. So "an unprecedentedly large flood did it" is pretty much the last theory they would be inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to, for very good reasons.
posted by straight at 3:00 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


Speaking of geological events conflated with flood mythology, and from a similar pre-historical era, the BBC's In Our Time podcast did a really nice episode on Doggerland a bit more than a month ago. Lake Agassiz makes an appearance during the discussion, as a concurrent event.
posted by XMLicious at 11:56 AM on August 13


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